How to Handle Confrontation When You’re an Introvert Who’d Rather Avoid It

An introvert has a serious talk with a friend

Because confrontation often involves raised voices and negative emotions, introverts may find it overwhelming.

When every lunch ended with my friend making me cry, I knew I needed to end the relationship. I planned to fade out of her life peacefully without any ugly confrontations.

Was this cowardly? Maybe a little. 

But as an introvert, I hate confrontation and avoid it whenever I can. (I don’t even send my food back in a restaurant when I don’t get it the way I ordered it.)

However, it seemed like my ex-friend wanted to have her say and looked for ways to get me to have a final discussion. She found the opportunity when she was co-hosting a party for a mutual friend — and threatened to uninvite me if I didn’t have it out with her first.

I knew our talk would be a confrontation of the worst kind, full of recrimination and negativity, so I refused to meet with her.

Learning to Face Confrontation Instead of Avoiding It

You see, introverts don’t do well with negative energy and often feel drained (more than usual) after experiencing it. My mental health was more important than her need to criticize my behavior.

I stopped attending any parties or other events that my ex-friend might be at. I spent years making sure we were never in the same room together, even if it meant missing out on something fun. I was a fugitive from my own life.

As you can imagine, avoiding all possible confrontational situations isn’t a healthy solution. Holding in that fear, anxiety, and conflict is stressful.

While confrontation scares me, I learned the consequences of not dealing with it can be even more limiting. You can’t live your best life and avoid all confrontation — it’s simply not possible. Sometimes, you’ve got to embrace conflict: Take a stand, confront the person, and deal with the outcome.

I’m much better at confrontation than I used to be, and I’ve come up with some tips that help me handle it, all without becoming anxious or overwhelmed.

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9 Ways to Handle Confrontation as an Introvert 

1. Don’t wait, or the spark of negativity will turn things into a scorched earth crisis.  

If there needs to be a confrontation, set up a meeting as soon as possible. If the situation goes on without resolution, the worse it will get. As much as you might want it to disappear, it will only worsen, and when you stuff it down, it’s guaranteed to bubble to the surface all over again.

Set up the meeting yourself — because when you take charge of the situation, you’re better able to control the narrative and are better prepared to handle any surprises. (And, as introverts, we don’t enjoy surprises.) 

2. Journal about your thoughts and feelings to better prepare for the confrontation.

Before you meet with the person, grab your journal or a notebook.

Journaling is a great coping mechanism — and a healthy way to process what’s going on in your mind in order to help you get some clarity. 

Writing about the issues, your feelings, and what the most positive outcome would be is surprisingly beneficial. View each pivotal moment in your head, and visualize how you want them to go. It may not go exactly as you picture it, but you’ll be better prepared to deal with what does happen.

Plus, we introverts do not like to be caught off-guard during conversations, so journaling can help us process everything before we say it aloud. (You can even make some notes in your phone and consult them when you meet with the person.) 

3. Go into the confrontational situation feeling as calm as possible.

As introverts, we tend to be pretty sensitive, especially to outside stimuli — but one of the things we can control is how we react. If we start out scared or full of rage, the situation could escalate. So you’ll want to be calm when going into any situation that causes you anxiety.

Whatever you do to get into a relaxed headspace, plan on doing it beforehand. Meditate, work out, or write — and don’t forget to breathe. (There are a lot of guided breathing exercises online if you could use some visual motivation.) 

Point being, use any and all tools that will help you get through the confrontation emotionally intact.

4. Reframe the situation in your mind and see things in a new light.

I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who would rather deal with an issue or problem alone. This is so we can focus on it rather than having our attention divided by another person, especially if that other person brings a negative vibe with them.

Remind yourself that confrontation doesn’t need to become an all-out war — it can be a simple conversation. Don’t assume that things will escalate and become a full-on argument with accusations, complaints, and meltdowns.

There’s no rule stating that your talk has to damage the relationship. Sometimes, a much-needed confrontation can be the thing that saves it (or ends) it on a neutral note.

5. Be clear on the problem and focus on it instead of your grievances.

If the other person requests a confrontation, don’t assume you know what it’s about. As introverts, we have vivid imaginations and love daydreaming, and we can build up a problem in our minds that has little to do with the actual issue. So ask questions, investigate, and do some research so you have a clear idea of why the person wants to talk to you. 

Make sure you not only know what the problem is, but also be prepared to take responsibility for your part in it. Think creatively and try to come up with suggestions that can be implemented to help fix things. And be flexible, as the other person may not take to your ideas right away.

If you have your own complaints, determine if they fit into the larger picture — and if they don’t, will bringing them up will make matters worse?

It’s easy for introverts to overthink things, so try to strike a balance between being educated and aware without going overboard.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

6. Try not to take things too personally, as it won’t benefit you.

I know — telling an introvert to not take something personally? But trust me – it won’t help.

It may feel as if you’re being personally attacked, but you have to let that type of thinking go.  Find the balance between what you think happened, what you feel happened, and what actually happened. 

Confrontations are rarely about a single issue or person, but are often a build-up of issues. It may be as simple as a personality clash (or not).

Distance yourself emotionally, and you’ll be better able to see things impartially and not feel as attacked. (Going back to see what you journaled about will help, too.)

7. Proceed with empathy and hope they do the same.

Talk about how you feel, but allow equal time for the other person to be honest about their feelings, too. Listen to what they say with an open heart and mind. Don’t just wait for them to finish so that you can speak — be an active listener (which we introverts excel at anyway).

Confrontation takes compassion if it’s going to cause positive change and not induce trauma. So have empathy for the other person, as well as for yourself. 

Try to see things from their perspective and ask questions for clarity. Don’t assume you know where they’re coming from or what they believe. Find out as much information as possible before coming up with your own conclusions. You may be surprised how much you and the other person agree on certain things.

8. Choose neutral ground for your confrontation.

It may be tempting to choose a place where only you feel safe. However, if it puts the other person on defense, it will only make a resolution more difficult.

If you need to have a confrontation at work, don’t do it in either of your offices, but find a neutral spot, like a coffee shop or an empty office — anywhere you won’t be disturbed.

9. Find a compromise that suits you both.    

The whole point of working through a confrontation is to address the problem and find a resolution that you and the other person can live with. If one person is satisfied and the other is seething, then all the anxiety and energy regarding the confrontation has been for nothing.

If you can’t find an answer that works for both of you, you may have to have another discussion at some point — or agree to disagree. 

If a confrontation doesn’t lead to an immediate solution, it doesn’t mean it was a failure. You made progress even if it doesn’t feel like it, and the next time you’ll be better able to handle one and not run away from it.

My confrontation skills have vastly improved since the situation with my ex-friend, and conflict no longer terrifies me. I don’t seek confrontation out, of course, but I’ve learned to face it head-on (when needed).

If I can do it, you can, too.

Are there any tips you’d add to the above? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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